The Checkout

Tougher Crib Regulations May Soon Be in the Works

Annys Shin

With all that hoopla last week -- something about a historic election -- a wee note went out unnoticed by most folk outside the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It was a staff briefing package to the Commission recommending tougher safety standards for cribs. The commission will vote later this week on whether to move forward with new mandatory standards.

The staff based its recommendation on the work of a special group of experts within the agency that looked at more than 1,200 crib incidents. They pinpointed problems with hardware, drop sides and the quality of wood components as potential causes of suffocation hazards.

Given that the past 14 months has seen the recall of more than 2.5 million cribs--triggered by deaths of infants and toddlers--it's not really a surprise that the agency would act. The staff concluded in its briefing packet that existing voluntary regulations are "inadequate." (Also a favored put-down of FDA adivsory panels.)

However, it's important to point out that even if the commissioners vote to go ahead, the agency may never get around to issuing regulations. Sometimes just initiating rulemaking is a way of prodding the industry to come together and agree on tougher standards on their own.

Whatever the agency's intention, the process takes a while. Rulemaking can take two or more years. (The upholstered furniture rule has dragged on for more than a decade.)

And in the meantime, babies are still being born and need a safe place to lay their heads.

So what to do? Well, while we wait for new regulations, whether voluntary or mandatory, some consumer groups including Consumers Union, which puts out Consumer Reports, have adjusted their crib recommendations to take into account hazards exposed by recent accidents and recalls.

So when looking for crib advice, you want to be sure you're looking at the most up-to-date information. And of course, make sure to check whether a crib that you already own has been recalled. I'll keep you posted on how the Commission votes later this week.

By Annys Shin |  November 10, 2008; 6:28 PM ET Annys Shin
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